Friday, October 21, 2011

The Magic of Pronunciation instruction: distractions and "Burriers!"

Adam Gopnik, quoting Jamy Ian Swiss on distractions [in magic]: "Magic only ‘happens’ in a spectator’s mind….Everything else is a distraction. . . . Methods for their own sake are a distraction. You cannot cross over into the world of magic until you put everything else aside and behind you—including your own desires and needs—and focus on bringing an experience to the audience. This is magic. Nothing else."

Clip art: Clker
Several recent posts have pointed to the problem of capturing the complete attention of the learner in anchoring pronunciation change. The distraction may be of many kinds, from formal instruction to wandering thoughts of tomorrow's fishing trip to past worries. For haptic anchoring in the instructional process to work, the "magic" must be there. The learner must be completely "in" the moment, the felt sense of the sound without distraction.

Whereas in magic the distraction is used to draw attention away from the slight of hand, in HICP the pedagogical movement patterns of the hands, in a sense, create a similar distraction, keeping the eyes "entertained" so the sound and somatic experience can be absorbed better. In fact, it may be necessary to first perform a preliminary trick--what we call a "Burri-er,"  named after Mike Burri, who recently reminded me of that technique, which we had experimented with a few years ago. To turn off the cognitive, analytic pre-frontal side of the house in the head temporarily, when it cannot shut up and stop commenting on what is going on, we may use a procedure like that developed in EMDR and other "quick change" therapies (noted in earlier posts.)

For example, try having patients/learners follow their hands with their eyes, going back and forth slowly in the visual field between 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock for about 30 seconds. (That has been shown to also improve performance on problem solving for some right handed college sophomores at least . . . ) A quick little "Burri-er" such as that should remove any barriers . . . like magic!

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